Characteristic based product configurator

A characteristic based product configurator is a product configurator extension which uses a set of discrete variables, called characteristics (or features), to define all the possible product variations.

The characteristics

There are two characteristic types:

  • binary variables, which describe the presence or not of a specific item,
  • n-values variables, which describe a selection between n possible values for a specific product item.
Characteristic registry: the MET, TR and ST characteristics are binary and they describe if the product is metallic, transparent, deformable; while the COL and SH characteristics tell the specific value of color and shape.

Each characteristic-value combination is related to a possible product variation, but it is really meaningful only if it satisfies the technological and commercial constraints between the characteristics. The constraints can represent:

  • incompatibility: they indicate the mutual exclusion between some product feature-values;
  • implication: they indicate the presence of a specific feature-value is constrained to the presence of another feature-value.
Constraints: example of an incompatibility between the MET and TR features (the product can only be MET or TR but not MET and TR) and of an implication between the ST and COL features (if the product is deformable then it must be red or green).

Closed or open configuration

Using a features-based configurator it is possible to define a product variation in two ways:

  1. Open configuration: the user will simply valuate all the characteristics, complying with the technological and commercial constraints;
  2. Closed configuration: it starts from a preselected base-preparation (representing a sub-class of product variations) which fixates a subset of characteristics, to which the user will optionally add other information, valuating the (still not fixed) characteristic-values, complying with the technological and commercial constraints. It can be useful to specify that a requested characteristic-value can replace another characteristic-value, incompatible with the requested one, present in the base-preparation.

Characteristic filters

The Use of characteristics permits to abstract the product representation to describe filter conditions which describe subset of product variations, using boolean functions on the characteristics:

  • The AND, NOR, OR logical operator use, simplifies the boolean function definition, because permits to regroup together the characteristic-values which may be present (AND), absent (NOR), not all absent (OR);
  • Thanks to the decoupling introduced by the characteristics use, it is not necessay to redefine the boolean functions when there are some new commercial codes introduced which can be mapped to some product-variation already covered by some characteristics combination.

Some applications that can get advantage by using a characteristics based configurator are:

  • bill of materials applications: to every part-number is associated a characteristics-filter, which selects the subset of product-variations in which the part-number will be used;
  • manufacturing process management system: to each operation is associated a characteristics-filter that will select the subset of product variants where the operation is done
  • commercial applications: The ordinability and mandatory requirements of a market are related to characteristic-filters that identify the product variations subset to which they apply.
Example of a form that can be showed to a user of a characteristic based product configurator, and the related logical function obtained by the compilation of itself.
In each mask the characteristic set are grouped together with logical AND to create subfunctions, these are then joined together with logical OR obtaining the ending result.

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